A flagship group set up by the government to promote efforts to have three million patients using telehealth by 2017 has been disbanded amid growing evidence the programme is experiencing difficulty, HSJ has learned.

NHS England confirmed the 3millionlives industry group, set up to spearhead the programme launched last year by then care services minister Paul Burstow, is to be replaced by a wider-ranging group featuring more figures from outside of the technology industry.

One market expert said the central role of so many technology companies in the group had led to a “perception that the 3millionslives campaign was about industry selling kit rather than developing better health outcomes”.

NHS England domain director for long term conditions Martin McShane said: “A rapid review of [3millionlives] delivery to date has shown that stakeholders, including those in industry, felt the industry group’s existing model needed to change, to enable the 3millionlives brand to be associated with a much broader range of technology solutions and organisations.”

Dr McShane said the new group, the Integrated Care for 3millionlives Stakeholder Forum, comprising clinical leaders, providers, the third sector and local government, as well as a “significant” industry presence would replace it.   

“This change in governance arrangements means integrated care under 3millionlives will be delivered through a matrix approach of clinical advocacy, service improvement and technology strategy, making it a true partnership within NHS England,” he added.

A NHS spokeswoman said further appointments and a governance structure for the group were in the process of being worked up.

The news follows the telehealth agenda, which ministers say could save the NHS up to £1.2bn over five years receiving a number of blows in recent months.

In March, the Department of Health-funded “whole systems demonstrator” programme, a well-respected study comparing the cost effectiveness of patients using telehealth against a control group and concluded telehealth was not cost effective.

Meanwhile, 02 Health announced this month it was quitting the telehealth market.

An 02 statement said: “We would like to let you know that O2 Health has taken the difficult decision to stop selling our telecare (Help at Hand) and telehealth (Health at Home) in the UK. We will cease providing the Help at Hand and Health at Home services to existing customers.

“We appreciate that this news may be unwelcome. Our decision to withdraw the service has not been taken lightly.”